I could not have said it any better myself. The proposed Albany County (NY) ban on polystyrene food packaging will put undo burden on local businesses. This article by one Albany County Legislator sums it up perfectly.
Well here we are again approaching another Earth Day which is April 22nd this year. For fun, I thought we’d do some trivia regarding Earth Day. Let’s see how much you know (or guess correctly). The answers are at the bottom…no peeking.
Q. In what year was Earth Day created? 1969, 1970, 1971 or 1972
Q. Who is the founder of Earth Day? Lyndon B Johnson, Richard Nixon, Senator Al Gore or Senator Gaylord Nelson
Q. What United States agency was a result of Earth Day? Rural Development Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture
Q. Since the inception of Earth Day, how much has air pollution decreased in the U.S.? 10%, 30%, 70% or 90%
I think everyone can agree, we must do all we can to help conserve the resource the earth has provided us so future generations can enjoy what we enjoy today. Even food packaging companies like Genpak must play a role. For our part, we practice conservation in many different forms from our manufacturing process to the various types of products we offer. Without question, the greenest products we offer have to be our Harvest Fiber line. They are fully, third party certified compostable, 100% all natural and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
So enjoy Earth Day and celebrate all that Mother Nature has provided!
Answers: 1970, Gaylord Nelson, EPA, 70%
Initially I was going to entitle this blog entry as Foam Food Packaging Gets A Victory, but the more I thought about it, the real winner here is the consumer. In New York City, the appeals court upheld the New York State Supreme Court’s ruling that overturned NYC Mayor de Blasio’s ban on foam food service packaging. You can read about that here, but in a nutshell the Restaurant Action Alliance and the coalition of Restaurant Owners in NYC filed the lawsuit. The NYS Supreme Court and now the Appellate Court both agreed and the ban has been overturned. Who wins?
- Consumers – the price for your favorite to go meal should not go up due to increased packaging costs
- Food Service Workers – nobody should be laid off due to increased operating costs caused by increased packaging costs
- Food Operators – you are free to choose the type of packaging you and your customers want. Nobody is forcing a certain type of packaging down your throat. You can stay with foam food packaging or, if you want explore other options, no problem. The point is the government is not forcing you one way or the other which is a good thing.
- The Environment – according to the EPA, one of the best ways to reduce items heading to a landfill is to recycle. According to this article, the city has an offer to help recycle 100% of its foam products. If they choose to ignore it for political reasons, they’ve nobody to blame but themselves.
There are different ways in which food service businesses are environmentally friendly. Some use locally grown produce. Some offer reusable containers and packaging, or allow customers to bring their own in. Some use containers that are compostable or made of recycled content. Others use eco friendly chemicals for cleaning. Some find ways to conserve water doing dishes, while still others Use solar power or wind power to generate electricity. The list goes on and on, and many are finding new ways to make Go Green part of the way they do business.
For those businesses that have not initiated any eco friendly movements yet, or think it may be too hard to get started, we want to provide steps to incorporate one of the easiest eco friendly things you can do: Read the rest of this entry »
There is a belief by many out there that polystyrene and foamed polystyrene can’t be recycled. Just because a local municipality chooses not to pick up products that carry a chasing arrows #6 “recycle logo”, certainly does not mean that material can’t be successfully recycled and turned into useful products that re-enter the world of commerce. In fact there is a booming industry that employs many Americans to support this effort. This video at 10 minutes is a little long, but well worth viewing. It demonstrates the process from start to finish.
The American Chemistry Counsel has just published an excellent piece of literature that busts some of the crazy polystyrene myths that are floating around the internet. These myths were developed by people and groups who have a specific agenda and are designed to frighten and intimidate people into their specific narrative.
Myth #1 – Foamed Polystyrene is not safe for food contact. BUSTED – The US Food & Drug Administration has determined for over 50 years that polystyrene is safe for use in foodservice products. In fact when asked to comment about the safety of foamed polystyrene products used for foodservice, the National Toxicology Program Director, Dr. Linda Birnbaum was quoted as saying “…in finished products, certainly [poly]styrene is no an issue.”
Myth #2 – Foamed Polystyrene makes up a huge portion of litter. BUSTED – According to a May 2012 national report by environmental consulting firm Environmental Resources Planning, foam foodservice items makes up 1.5% of all litter. Having said this, we must state that ALL litter is bad! In fact we’ve mentioned many times in the past within these blog pages that local governments should focus their efforts on busting litter bugs and educating people about litter instead of whipping out the “ban pen”. It’s been proven in communities that have banned one type of material in favor of another, that it did nothing regarding litter except trade one type of litter for another.
Myth #3 – Foamed Polystyrene can’t be recycled. BUSTED – 20% of Californians can now recycle polystyrene foam items in their local curbside programs. There are other communities that have jumped on that bandwagon and we support and applaud those efforts!
Myth #4 – Styrene = Polystyrene. BUSTED – Polystyrene and styrene are two different substances. Yes, polystyrene is made from styrene, but equating the two would be like saying diamonds are the same exact thing as carbon. After all, diamonds are made from carbon. But anybody who has purchased a diamond knows they they cost a lot more than a lump of carbon.
For more truthful information regarding foamed polystyrene and other environmental related questions, please visit our Green Room. We’ve done our best to provide as much spin free truths that are readily verifiable.
How cool would it be to some day take your garbage and turn it into energy? It looks like those possibilities are right around the corner. I for one would love to take my non-recyclable materials and use them to fill up my home fuel oil tank. Sounds kind of like Mr. Fusion is being realized!
I attended the hearing last evening in Albany held by the County Executive Dan McCoy, who listened to statements from folks regarding the proposed ban on foamed polystyrene food packaging. There was a good mix of people from individual citizens to local union workers to manufacturers. It was interesting listening to the people who were in favor of the ban and their misguided arguments. It became clear that much of what the proponents of the ban were saying was pulled from urban legend emails and internet chatter concocted by those who would demonize what they don’t like. The following is a summary and subsequent debunking of their arguments.
- Foamed polystyrene is “clogging” our landfills. FALSE! The EPA stated that in 2011, as a nation we generated 250MM tons of trash. Of that trash, 12.7% is listed as plastic. Keep in mind that is all plastics from shampoo bottles & toys to durable goods such as furniture. They estimate that only 2.8% of that plastic is non-durable goods such as plates, bowls and cups. The EPA did not segregate solid plastic from foamed plastic which, is the material being targeted in this ban. Consider for a moment that a foam 12 ounce bowl weighs about 58% less than a solid plastic 12 ounce bowl and you can reasonably concluded that the actual amount of foamed food service items going into landfills is more around the 1.5% number. Now I do not have a number I can hang on the word “clogging”, but 1.5% of something is far from any reasonable definition.
- Foam polystyrene is dangerous to your health. FALSE! One lady who spoke actually stated that these items were poisonous and why would we want to use poisonous products. The sad part was, she was not being facetious and had been convinced that foamed food service items would do her serious harm. Of course nothing could be further from the truth. Foam food service items have been safely used for over 40 years. The FDA has approved foam food service items to be safe for food contact. In fact there are studies done by the Nevada Health Department that show the use of single use packaging is actually more safe that permanent ware due to lower microbial levels. Think about it. How many times have you gone out to eat and noticed your plate or silverware had little specs of food dried on it? This simply never happens with foam food packaging. There was also a fair bit of chatter regarding the component styrene. This is an instance where people hear what they want to and disregard the rest. The fact is, styrene is a liquid whereas polystyrene is an inert solid. I’ve never seen a liquid version of a foam food container. Furthermore, styrene is present naturally in many foods we eat including beef, strawberries, wheat and cinnamon. In fact you’d be exposed to far more styrene by eating one cinnamon donut than drinking 30 cups of coffee from a foam cup. I have not heard of any bans on cinnamon donuts though. Why? Simple, the amount of exposure is so incredibly small, it is measured in parts per billion. The plain truth is foam food service products are totally safe. History, the FDA and the scientific facts support that claim whereas those who claim otherwise rely on hyperbole, urban legends and misinformation to confuse and misguide folks like that poor little lady who thought it was poisonous.
- Foam containers contribute to litter. Should this ban go through, Albany County would simply be trading one type of litter for another. The ban calls for replacements items to be compostable. Here again, the folks in the audience who brought up this point simply don’t know that even though an item may be designated as compostable, it simply will not go away like they think it will if littered. I know this because as a company we offer many compostable products and know that they will only compost when deposited in professionally run compost facilities that have control over heat and moisture exposure. One gentleman displayed a cup that had been littered and said if that were a paper cup or other compostable item, it would have gone away. That is simply not true. Consider this, it takes a leaf one full year to biodegrade back into the forest floor. How long do you think it would take a compostable cup or bowl, if littered to fully biodegrade? I’ll bet that gentleman thought it was maybe a month or two. I think not. More like a couple of years. Addressing the litter issue by banning a particular product in favor of a far more expensive (2 times more) item just places undo financial hardship on business owners who use those products. It does nothing about litter. A litterbug is going to litter that cup no matter what it is made of. It seems to me increasing fines and actually going after the litterbugs would do much more in controlling litter than banning a product. Catch someone and fine them $200 bucks for chucking a cup out their window will quickly change their minds on how to properly dispose of that cup. Litter is not something caused by food service single-use items. Litter is caused by unmanaged and overflowing trash receptacles, the general lack of properly placed trash receptacles and unscrupulous people who knowingly and illegally dump their refuse into the environment. Not that any litter is good, I thought it would be helpful to know that “fast food” packaging which is what we are talking about here, actually is a very small percentage of the total litter. Here is a graphic right from Keep America Beautiful that shows these containers are only 5.3% of the litter problem.
As you can see, I’ve linked in sources from reputable web sites and listed other references by name. Anything stated here can be looked up and verified…unlike most all of the wild claims made by proponents of the ban last night. I really think that 90% of the folks that spoke in favor of the ban are good people that are just not informed of the true facts. They have bought into the misinformation and outright falsehoods spread by the other 10% who simply have it out for “big business”. Hopefully the eight Genpakers along with the employees from other food packaging manufacturers that were present, helped to put faces behind company names. We are folks just like them who live and raise families right here in New York State. I doubt my little blog here will change the minds of those 10% who only hear what fits into their ideology, but for those other people, I truly hope that you will read and consider the facts before passing judgement.
Emperor Bloomberg is trying to inflict as much damage to the economy as he can prior to his exit as New York City Mayor by cramming through a ban that would stagnate job growth and raise consumer prices all while doing nothing to solve their litter issue. I think the most disturbing thing in that piece, was the video where all the school children were marched out by their “teachers” to chant against the polystyrene workers who came in support of their jobs. Typical it seems these days of certain groups. Demonize and belittle that which they do not agree with or which doesn’t fit into their ideology. A sad day for those poor school kids and shame on those “teachers” for forcing their personal views upon them.
I was recently in the San Francisco airport and noticed that most of fine food establishments were serving their food in containers that were marked as compostable. We’ve talked about compostable containers many times before, in this blog. In fact as a company, we sell quite a lot of compostable packaging under our Harvest product lines. What struck me as odd was there were no collection points set up for these containers. The only option for disposal was into the trash receptacles. Once they go into those garbage cans, they are headed for the landfill. Unfortunately, most people mistakenly assume that the container will compost or go away in the landfill. This is not the case.
Studies have shown that even organic materials (food waste, lawn clippings) last a very long time. So I guess the question is, did these food operations decide to “go green” thinking the containers would be composted, were they forced to by legislation, or did they just make a conscious decision to do this as an internal initiative based on consumer feedback. In a perfect world, the answer would be the last. I believe the markets and consumers need to be the force behind these types of decisions, but it is my guess that in this case, they were forced to since most every food outlet was using compostable packaging. I find it hard to believe that every individual food operation in that airport thought the same way in terms of their food packaging.
Just to be clear, I’m packaging neutral when it comes to the substrate used since I work for a company that sells most every type available. Paper, plastics, hybrids and yes 100% certified compostable products. I just think it is best to allow the markets (consumers) decide which materials are desired. This goes against the thinking of many in the political arena who would rather pick on materials that are deemed easy targets due to customer misconception and internet folklore. One needs to really ask what their motives are. Is it because it’s the will of their constituents or that they want to have some sort of perceived accomplishment? You decide.